Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Neglected and Underdeveloped Knowledge Management

It’s no surprise that CCH recently announced the release of KnowledgeConnect, a knowledge management system for accounting firms. According to CCH, KnowledgeConnect is “a central, indexed, and easy-to-search knowledge management system that will empower staff to make faster and more informed business decisions, avoid work redundancies and reduce project cycle times. KnowledgeConnect will also allow you to, quickly find the best answers for improved customer service, eliminate work redundancies by documenting special knowledge, and easily identify subject-matter experts.”

I first wrote about knowledge management and accounting firms in my August 16, 2005 WebCPA column “Do You Have a Chief Knowledge Officer?” at

Knowledge shouldn't just reside with individuals, but needs to be captured and institutionalized within the firm so that it can be accessed easily by all. I gave the following examples in the column: templates for audit engagements, checklists and established procedures for tax return preparation, a sophisticated client relationship management system, and a knowledge database on the firm's Intranet.

You don’t have to be a large regional accounting firm, a business with hundreds of employees, or buy CCH KnowledgeConnect or a similar software application to take advantage of knowledge management. It doesn’t have to cost much as long as time is spent on developing an understanding of how knowledge management can be applied and training those that will utilize it.

I speak from direct experience. With only two-full-time editors and one part-time editor (including myself) working on Practical Accountant, the quality of our editorial content was directly attributable to our ability to take advantage of knowledge management. We used push technologies to keep informed of developments, blast e-mails to pre-qualify article interviewee volunteers, and an Outlook 1,200-plus contact database searchable by subject matter. Running lists of possible coverage for each department, profiled accounting firms, innovation award winners, and what appeared in recurring sections were also maintained.

In today’s world where accounting firms and businesses of all sizes are focusing on reducing costs and improving efficiency, knowledge management is an invaluable tool. Sophisticated software can be helpful, but that’s not the key. What’s necessary for effective knowledge management to work is getting buy-in and participation.

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